When I submitted my last assignment for my last semester of school, I breathed a sigh of relief and immediately started thinking about all of the fun things I wanted to do with my nights. Finally, my nights wouldn't be consumed by classes, internship hours and homework. I sat down with Joe on Sunday for our family meeting, eager to plan some fun things and down time together.

Our conversation during that family meeting went a little like this:

Me: "What do you have going this week?"

Joe: "I have this on Monday night, that on Tuesday night and this other thing on Wednesday night."

Me: "So we can hang out on Thursday night?"

Joe: "Probably. I might have something that shifts into Thursday night, though."

Me: "Do you even want to hang out with me?!?" (Joking, of course.)

I don't know why I thought that time was magically going to appear after I graduated, but apparently I did. I'd forgotten all about lawn care season and how much Joe is usually gone taking care of clients and building his business. He also has church commitments that take up at least one night a week. After this season dies down, we have other things that we're planning for and then the holidays hit. There's always something around the next corner that takes up time.Every season of life is different, and the demands on our time shift as well, but there's consistency in the fact that it never feels like there is enough time in our days to do what we want.

I was disappointed in myself that last semester because I did a lot more taking than giving in our relationship. I didn't always make Joe a priority, even though I thought about it often. He was the greatest support to me in my final semester of school, especially as my carefully laid plans fell apart and. Now that Joe is in a busy season of his life, I know that I need to step up to the plate and support him the way that he supported me!

As I put together my schedule each week, I make sure to include time that I can spend with Joe. Over the next five months, which I'm labeling as "the next season of our lives," I have specific ideas of things I know will help us make time for our marriage. Planned, weekly date nights are at the top of that list, because it is guaranteed quality time. Other things on the list include night time walks with the family, dinner from the grill every couple of weeks, Friday lunch dates at home while our son naps, etc. I want to make the most of the time that we have to spend together, even though it's not abundant.

Here are three tips to make more time for your marriage right now:

Don't use the gaps to make time for your spouse!

Obviously, it's great to spend extra free time together, but your marriage and your spouse should be a priority first! Have you ever seen the object lesson using a jar, rocks and sand that illustrates priorities in life? If you put the sand (unimportant things) in first, there's no room for the rocks (important things). But if you add the big rocks, then the pebbles and the sand, you'll be able to fit everything into your schedule. Identify the rocks, pebbles and sand in your life. When I sit down to fill out my calendar, I schedule the rocks first (date night, weekly rituals, family time, etc.) and then I fill-in some of the gaps with my pebbles. Any leftover time each day is spent taking care of the sand in my life.

Knowing your schedule makes all the difference

When you look at your schedule every week/month/year, what are the non-negotiable things that you put on the calendar first? Do you ever schedule time for your marriage as a must-do in your life? If you're determined to make your marriage a priority, you should, and you should make that time non-negotiable the same way work, class, and other things are set commitments that can't be moved.

Don't commit to more than you can handle

I would never suggest that anyone attempt to do everything I did my last semester of school. It was a really bad idea. It was not my plan, at all, and Joe agreed to journey through it with me. The things that I had to commit to weren't bad, but all of my commitments combined took up a lot more of my time than they should have. School, work, church service, none of it is bad until it doesn't leave time for your priorities. If someone asks me to do something and that thing falls into my work hours, it's easy to say no. If I have made plans with family for that time, it's easy to say no. If you've scheduled date night or time with your spouse, do you say no to things that conflict with those plans?

No matter your stage in life, there will always be something keeping you from spending every minute of every day together. Some stages may allow for more free time than others, but there will always be other responsibilities that need to be taken care of. Don't let your commitments take up all of your time. I know that Joe and I survived this last season of life because we were determined to make our relationship a priority and knew that no matter what life was sending our way, our ultimate goal is to have a strong marriage and family. Make time for your marriage, because if you don't, you will begin to drift apart and one day you might wake up to find that you are roommates instead of lovers. Make your marriage a priority and you will have a confidant, partner and best friend to make it through every stage of life with.

This article originally appeared on Amberly Lambertsen's blog, APrioritizedMarriage.com. It has been republished here with permission.

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